What should you feed your Bengal? Is a Bengal Cat diet different from that of a Persian, Siamese, or any other cat breed?
Because of the exotic roots of the Bengal, some people believe that you have to feed him differently. On the contrary, a Bengal’s nutritional needs are not much different from those of any other cats.
Understanding the Bengal Cat diet
Bengals are energetic cats that need a complete and balanced diet with plenty of protein.
Nutrition is one of the foundations of optimum cat health. Hippocrates’ pronouncement “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” certainly applies to people and their pets.
In essence, proper nutrition can prevent many diseases and disorders that felines can succumb to, from obesity to kidney problems to diabetes.
As such, diet is not something that should not be taken lightly. Your goal is not just to satisfy your pet’s hunger. More importantly, your primary goal is to provide your Bengal’s nutritional needs which will help him live a longer, healthier life.
Before deciding what type of food to feed your pet, it is critical to understand one key concept: cats are obligate carnivores.
All cats are obligate carnivores
Ever wondered why cats cannot become vegans but people, and to some extent, dogs can? The answer is that people and dogs are omnivores while cats are carnivores, obligate carnivores to be exact.
Obligate carnivores like cats have lost the ability to produce some amino acids and vitamins inside their bodies. The main reason behind that is because they acquire these nutrients through the food they eat.
Another reason why cats must eat meat is that evolution has made their digestive tract shorter. In fact, cats have one of the shortest digestive tracts in the animal kingdom. Essentially, this means that your Bengal can easily digest meat.
Cats do not need carbohydrates because they get their energy from proteins. Furthermore, their short digestive tract has rendered them unable to fully digest these nutrients. Breaking down carbohydrates requires a longer digestive tract as well as the right type of microorganisms.
Wet vs. dry cat food
There is a growing number of cat owners who advocate feeding their pets with raw food. The logic behind this movement is that raw food mimics what a cat would eat if it lived in the wild. Furthermore, it follows closely the idea that cats are obligate carnivores.
However, for most cat owners who lead busy lifestyles, feeding their pets with raw food can be downright time-consuming, if not impractical.
Now, that leaves you with three main options: wet, dry, and semi-moist food.
While each of these have their own merits and drawbacks, most veterinarians and feline nutrition experts recommend wet or canned cat food.
There are three main reasons why feline health experts prefer wet food over dry food. For starters, dry food contains little to no water content. Second, most dry foods contain a substantial amount of carbohydrates that your Bengal does not need. Finally, most dry cat foods use plant-based proteins instead of those sourced from animals.
Apart from these reasons, you should avoid feeding your Bengal dry food because it has been overcooked which in turn alters the nutrients, sometimes making these useless for cats.
Compared to wet food, dry food is also prone to contamination of microorganisms. Furthermore, the quality of kibble usually downgrades when stored improperly. For example, when dry food is stored in a warm or hot warehouse, the fat content can become rancid and vulnerable to bacterial infestation.
Diseases associated with dry cat food
It is fairly easy to understand why some cat owners prefer dry food. For starters, dry food is cheaper than canned food. Second, you can leave dry food without worrying that it will go stale in a couple of hours.
However, there are plenty of studies that indicate that dry food is bad for cats, especially over the long term. The ill effects of eating dry food may not be readily apparent over the short term, but if you continue feeding your pet with dry food, eventually your pet can succumb to various diseases.
One disease associated with dry food is diabetes. Diabetes is primarily caused by overconsumption of carbohydrates. In a nutshell, carbs alter a cat’s blood sugar balance.
Carbohydrates are added to dry food because these are cheap. Usually, carbs come in the form of grains. Some food manufacturers tout their products as grain-free but these are still loaded with carbs which come in the form of tubers like potatoes.
Cats do not need carbs. In the wild, a cat’s diet consists mostly of meats and internal organs which contain a high amount of proteins and a moderate amount of fats. Carbohydrates comprise just one to two percent of a feline’s diet.
Apart from containing too many carbohydrates, dry food contains too many calories, which in turn, contributes both to diabetes and obesity.
Kidney disease is prevalent in cats that eat dry food.
Cats rarely drink enough water. Instead, they get moisture from the food they eat. And when you feed your cat dry food that has little to no moisture, you will need to find creative ways to coax your cat to drink water.
The easier path would be to feed your Bengal with wet food which has around 78 percent moisture. Without enough water in your cat’s body, he becomes vulnerable to kidney and bladder issues.
Cats need to consume animal-based proteins
Although dry food indeed contains proteins, these are derived from plants. Your cat needs proteins sourced from other animals.
Animal proteins contain the amino acids that your cat’s body needs. On the other hand, plant-based proteins do contain some of the amino acids that your Bengal needs but these are not sufficient.
Unlike people and dogs, cats cannot synthesize plant proteins to create the amino acids their bodies need.
Another problem associated with dry food is that it does not have taurine which is essential for eye and heart health in cats. If dry food contains taurine, it is the synthetic version.
Reading cat food labels
With so many products to choose from, it can be frustrating to choose which of these to feed your Bengal.
There are two critical things that you should look into: the composition and the ingredients. Composition refers to the percentage of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in canned food.
Be aware that most cat foods you find on the shelves usually list the minimum and maximums. Unfortunately, the composition listed on the label is rarely accurate.
Next, check the ingredients list. Ideally, the brand you choose should be low in carbohydrates. If carbohydrates are listed on top of the list, choose another one.
Using the composition and ingredient list, choose a brand that has carbohydrates well below 10 percent. Remember that carbs can come in various forms, from grains to other sources like tubers. Even the gravy and sauces in cat food can contain extra carbs that your cat does not need.
Another ingredient to watch out for is soy. Soy has been associated with hyperthyroidism in cats and it is best to steer away from brands that contain the ingredient.
If your cat is allergic to a particular protein source, look for it in the ingredient list.
But how about animal by-products? Compared to plant-based proteins, animal by-products are considerably better. But not all animal by-products are equal. Some can be nutritious.
Internal organs provide cats with ample amounts of nutrients that they need. However, organs should be lower on the ingredient list because too many vitamins A and D in internal organs like the liver can be bad for a cat.
In the past, food manufacturers have used preservatives like ethoxyquin and BHA which have been deemed unsafe for cats. Some manufacturers have abandoned the use of these, it is still worthwhile to check the ingredient list and look for these.
Nutrition is essential for cat health
Feeding your cat is not just about satisfying his hunger. Beyond hunger, the right type of food should build the foundation for your cat’s health and wellbeing. As such, you should choose his food wisely.
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